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Drug War Misguided, Harmful

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
Now that the 2008 presidential election circus is in full swing, it's high time to see where candidates stand on the most important issues facing our society. Most of these are wars, in some fashion or another: the war in Iraq, the war on terror, the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war against leaving children behind.

When it comes to these wars, the candidates tend to align themselves in a fairly predictable way with their party. But when they try articulating how they feel about the war on drugs, interesting things happen.

Republicans begin attributing authoritarian powers to federal over state government. Democrats begin expounding on public morality. And perhaps less strangely, candidates from both parties retract their previously stated positions. But it seems that when it comes to drugs - -- and especially the portion of the war spent against marijuana -- politicians lose their minds.

They dismiss the findings of national medical journals, health associations and independent physicians' panels. They argue that legalizing marijuana, even just for medicinal purposes, would somehow send the wrong message to children. The message children are not getting ( and their parents may not realize either ) is that the war on drugs has progressed to a point that police can break into private homes, destroy property and hold up law-abiding citizens if their house matches the description of a known drug dealer or their informant is wrong.

In July 2004, Houston police forcibly entered the home of a landscape contractor, ordered him to the floor, pointed an assault weapon at his head, searched his house and found nothing but hibiscus. Some stories like this end in the death of innocent people, but the issue at hand is why they start at all.

Why the insistence on cracking down so harshly against a substance that arguably does less harm than legal substances such as alcohol, tobacco or misused painkillers? More importantly, how does a government originally founded on principles of liberty, property and states' rights justify ignoring those rights for the sake of appearing upstanding?

Because the war on drugs really is about appearances. It has yet to provide any concrete, long-term success. On the contrary, prevention programs such as DARE have been proven ineffective, crime hasn't fallen significantly and increasing arrests for possession have crowded prisons with nonviolent offenders. In 2004, 20 percent of inmates in state prisons were drug offenders, and more than a quarter of those were serving time for possession.

For $69 billion a year, taxpayers should expect and demand serious improvements in their society. Instead, we are bombarded with empty rhetoric about being tough on crime. All the while, drug war policies continue to take rights away from citizens whose social mobility needs all the help it can get.

Under a 1998 amendment to the Higher Education Act, drug violations keep students from being eligible for federally funded college aid. People with drug convictions also can be denied public housing, food stamps and even the right to vote.

As the presidential candidates present their platforms about the difficult issues facing our society, we should take a serious look at which wars we're most dedicated to fighting -- and what rights and taxes we're willing to hand over to make sure we win.

Source: Baylor Lariat (TX Edu)
Copyright: 2007 The Baylor Lariat
Contact: Lariat-Letters@baylor.edu
Website: Baylor University || The Lariat Online
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